United v Liverpool: Six talking points
Matches between Manchester United and Liverpool rarely disappoint and don’t need any kind of introduction.
Jose Mourinho’s men will be raring to go after coming from behind to beat both Chelsea and Crystal Palace in the last two Premier League games.
As ever when the two great rivals go head to head, there are plenty of sub-plots and we’ve picked out six topics up for discussion ahead of Saturday’s showdown…
THE BATTLE FOR SECOND PLACE
The first Premier League match of the weekend pits second against third, with United currently leading the race to finish in the runners-up spot, with the title seemingly out of reach. There are currently two points separating the two sides, who have taken turns to occupy second place in recent weeks. But, crucially, Mourinho’s team have momentum at a good time and victory this weekend would open up a five-point gap over the Merseysiders with just nine games left to play, which could be significant at this stage of the season.
RIVALRY REACHES KEY LANDMARK
The Saturday lunchtime encounter at the Theatre of Dreams will be our 200th competitive meeting with Liverpool in an intense rivalry which stretches all the way back to April 1894. United have the upper hand over the previous 199 games – winning 79 to Liverpool’s 65, with 55 draws. Overall, we have scored 272 goals against Liverpool, conceding 251. After four consecutive draws between the sides, the Reds will be eager to mark the milestone by getting the better of the Merseysiders for the first time since September 2015.
IS MARTIAL IN OR OUT?
Anthony Martial capped a debut to remember in that aforementioned fixture three years ago by coming off the bench to seal a 3-1 success with a well-taken finish at the Stretford End. He will be hoping to be involved on Saturday, and have a positive impact against Liverpool once again, after missing Monday’s thrilling comeback victory at Crystal Palace through injury. The boss could give an update on the situation in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
WHO COULD PLAY FOR LIVERPOOL?
There was plenty of debate surrounding Jurgen Klopp’s team selection for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League last-16 second leg against FC Porto, with his side already holding an unassailable 5-0 lead from the first leg. The Liverpool boss made five changes for the goalless draw at Anfield from their 2-0 home win over Newcastle in the league last weekend, handing Adam Lallana a first start in two months after injury and giving some game time to forgotten striker Danny Ings off the bench in the second half. But the Merseysiders are likely to return to a full-strength side on Saturday, with Nathaniel Clyne and Georginio Wijnaldum expected to be their only absentees.
SHUTTING OUT THE MERSEYSIDERS
Everyone has been raving about Liverpool’s attacking talent, who have scored 67 Premier League goals between them this season. But United comfortably kept a clean sheet at Anfield in the goalless draw back in October and are one of only six teams to keep a clean sheet against the Merseysiders in their 42 games in all competitions so far this term. Encouragingly, heading into Saturday’s game, Mourinho’s men hold the best defensive home record in the Premier League this term – conceding just six times at Old Trafford in our 14 top-flight games so far. Add into the mix the fact United have kept four clean sheets during an unbeaten run of seven league encounters against Liverpool and it stands us in good stead that a solid defensive base can set the platform for a crucial victory.
A CRUCIAL HOME RUN BEGINS
The visit of our fierce rivals from across the North West is the first of three massive home games for United in the space of seven days in three different competitions – with a decisive UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Sevilla to come on Tuesday night, followed by an Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie against Brighton. The boss has called for a big atmosphere on Saturday, which would help give the players an extra lift in their quest to secure a win that would be well received and could set the tone for a positive week ahead.